The Impending Crisis Awaiting Cardiac Transplantation: Modeling a Solution Based on Selection

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Abstract

Background

Each month, the number of transplant candidates added to the waiting list exceeds the number of transplantations performed, and many outpatients deteriorate to require transplantation urgently. The current list of 2400 candidates and the average wait of 8 months continue to increase.

Methods and Results

To determine the size at which the outpatient and critical candidate pools will stabilize, population models were constructed using current statistics for donor hearts, candidate listing, sudden death, and outpatient decline to urgent status and revised to predict the impact of alterations in policies of candidate listing. If current practices continue, within 48 months the predicted list will stabilize as the sum of an estimated 270 hospitalized candidates, among whom, together with newly listed urgent candidates, all hearts will be distributed and 3700 outpatient candidates with virtually no chance of transplantation unless they deteriorate to an urgent status. Decreasing the upper age limit now to 55 years would reduce the number listed each month by 30% and result within 48 months in a list of only 1490. The list could also be decreased by 30%, however, if it were possible to list only a candidate group with an 80% chance (compared with 52% estimated currently) of sudden death or deterioration during the next year. With this strategy, the waiting list would equilibrate within 48 months to one-third the current size, with 50% of hearts for outpatient candidates, who would then have an 11% chance each month of receiving a heart compared with 0% if recent policies prevail. Total deaths, with and without transplantation, would be minimized by this rigorous selection of outpatient candidates.

Conclusions

This study implies that immediate provisions should be made to limit candidate listing and revise expectations to reflect the diminishing likelihood of transplantation for outpatient candidates. Future emphasis should be on improved selection of candidates at highest risk without transplantation.

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